Matrimonial and Family Law Blog

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Avoid Co-Parenting Issues with a Co-Parenting Plan

It can be hard for two people who no longer want to be married to each other to work together to raise the children after divorce. Emotions can run high and the children can get caught in the middle. If the parents already have poor communication or conflict-resolution skills, particularly when interacting with each other, disagreements about the children can quickly become a powder keg. In these situations, a New York child custody lawyer can assist you in planning and preparation to prevent problems. Here is how to avoid co-parenting issues with a co-parenting plan.

Types of Custody and Parenting Plans in New York

There are two types of child custody in New York, full custody, and joint custody. In a full custody arrangement, one parent is the custodial parent and the other parent is the non-custodial parent who usually has visitation rights. Under New York law, the parent with full custody has the authority and responsibility to make all the legal decisions for the minor children, unless the parents agree to different terms in their parenting plan.

Although it sounds counter-intuitive, when parents have joint custody, they do not necessarily split the parenting time equally. Since joint custody arrangements are purely voluntary – the court cannot force parents to have joint custody – the parents can set the amount of time the children spend with each parent however they like, as long as the judge approves of the arrangement. Parents with joint custody also have joint legal custody, meaning they each have an equal say in legal decisions about the children. Co-parenting comes with its own set of problems, but you can avoid them with a well-crafted co-parenting plan.

Problems with Co-Parenting and How to Avoid Them with a Co-Parenting Plan

Joint legal custody problems and solutions. When two people have an equal vote in decision-making, they can reach an impasse if they disagree. There are several ways to address this issue in the co-parenting plan:

  • Reach an agreement in the co-parenting plan about the important issues, such as education, religion, residency of the children, medical care, college expenses, and who will take the dependent exemptions on income taxes.
  • Designate a third party to break the tie if the parties reach an impasse. This person can be the child’s counselor or therapist, or a high-conflict specialist with the court.
  • Stipulate that both parents will have input on all issues regarding the children, but give each parent one or two categories on which they will be the decision-maker in the event they cannot reach an agreement.

Lack of detail in parenting time schedule. In an ideal world, the children will spend plenty of time with each parent and the parents will work the schedule around the best interests of the children. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. When a co-parenting plan does not contain specific terms about the custody schedule, the parents can disagree, which will leave the children in a high-stress environment. To avoid this problem, go ahead and write the day-to-day schedule in general terms so the parties feel free to modify by verbal agreement as needed. Also, include a default schedule to fall back on if the parents disagree.

Divorce and co-parenting plans in New York are complicated. They will impact your life for years. Schedule a consult with one of our New York child custody lawyers when you are contemplating or going through a divorce.

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